Last year, the Vatican bank detected six suspicious transactions; this year, that figure has soared to more than 100 amid a reform effort, an official tells the Los Angeles Times. That work, headed by Swiss financial expert Rene Bruelhart, also involves asking 1,000 account holders at the bank to leave, a Vatican insider says. Being an Italian noble or wealthy figure is no longer enough to qualify as a customer; now, only priests, religious groups, approved diplomats, and Vatican staffers may join.
"There is an ethical concern about tax evasion, but there is also an idea that the bank should just serve the Holy See," another Vatican figure tells the paper. Bruelhart was brought in last year as the bank, which serves 18,900 customers and has assets of $7 billion, looks to tighten regulations following several scandals in recent decades. Pope Benedict XVI created the watchdog Financial Information Authority in 2011 to watch over the process. "There is a very strong commitment at the Holy See to introduce a well-functioning and sustainable system to fight financial crime," Bruelhart says. (Read more Vatican Bank stories.)